10 Best Grammy Performances
Magical moments happen on music’s biggest night every year and 2014 should be no exception with Kendrick Lamar, Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder already announced as performers for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on Sun., Jan. 26. In past years, R&B and hip-hop artists have represented at the ceremony, many displaying unique presentations of their talents.
Elton John once joined Eminem for a chemistry-filled performance of ‘Stan.’ Michael Jackson brought a choir to the stage to bring a gospel-feel to his song ‘Man in the Mirror.’ And who can forget Kanye West and Daft Punk’s neon-lit collaboration onstage. Before you tune in, take a look at 10 Best Grammy Performances from the past two decades.
Jazz legend Herbie Hancock brought giant scary dolls to life as he performed his track ‘Rockit’ at the Grammy Awards in 1984. The song was an international hit and a No. 1 Billboard Hot Dance Club Play track in 1983. Hancock walked back and forth across the stage with his keyboard in hand as the lifeless objects bopped to the sounds. Towards the end, the dolls came alive, moonwalking, popping and locking, and even breakdancing for the clapping crowd. This moment brought the early form of hip-hop dance to the Grammy stage.
Stevie Wonder Tribute (1996)
In a soulful tribute to the icon Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo and Tony Rich took to the keys to do a medley of Wonder’s hits ‘Superstition’ and ‘Livin For the City.’ The Grammy Award-winning singers put their own spin on the songs and harmonized with each other to pay respects to one of Motown’s best-selling artists.
‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’ (1987)
Rocking all-black, Janet Jackson gave an electrifying live rendition of her 1986 hit ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately,’ the lead single from her third studio album, ‘Control.’ Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis stepped up to the stage to do a funky two-step with Jackson. Her all-male troupe of backup dancers assisted her as she gave spunky choreography to this new version of the song.
‘No More Drama’ (2002)
Mary J. Blige showcased her soul at the 2002 Grammys with her performance of ‘No More Drama.’ The top 40 hit was a tale of her setting herself free from her afflictions. It was evident that this version of the song was part of her ongoing therapy during this time of her life — there was strength in every word Blige sang. As she closed out her set, she turned it up a notch, pointing her finger as if she was preaching and “pushed the demons.” The performance was met with a standing ovation.
‘To Zion’ (1999)
The 1999 Grammy Awards were a historic night for Lauryn Hill, who walked away with five shiny gramophones. The singer, wearing all-white, took to the stage with Carlos Santana who played the guitar as she sang ‘To Zion,’ a track from her best-selling album, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’ The singer brought the acoustic energy to the stage for the record, which was dedicated to her first-born son.
‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ & ‘Man in the Mirror’ (1988)
During the ‘Bad’ era, Michael Jackson teased the Grammy crowd by busting a couple of moves from behind a white screen before stepping down to perform his song ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ — there were no other dancers present but himself. He then switched things up and introduced the lyrics to ‘Man in the Mirror.’ This was followed by a heartfelt, emotional delivery of the inspirational record. A choir backed the singer as he jumped and spun around and called for everyone to “stand up” and make a change within themselves.
This legendary moment had to land on our Best Grammy Performances list. On a rainy set filled with thunderstorm effects, Eminem sat on a bed as he spit the unsettling bars to ‘Stan.’ The set reenacted the scenes from the music video for the song. But what was most shocking was the presence of Elton John, a gay icon who would seemingly be upset with the controversial rapper’s many homophobic lyrics. He embraced Em here and even played the piano and owned the vocals of the hook, originally sung by Dido. Em then took a seat at a desk to write a letter to his crazy obsessive fan. At the end of the performance, the two artists hugged and held hands in victory.
With a glow in the dark set, Kanye West brought French electronic producing duo Daft Punk to the Grammy stage in 2008. The rapper remixed their track, ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,’ to create his own No. 1 hit ‘Stronger’ in 2007. West, donning those infamous shutter shades, proved once again that any performance he’s involved in will be over-the-top.
‘Swagga Like Us’ (2009)
A very pregnant M.I.A was at the center of one of the most epic hip-hop performances that ever took place at the Grammys. In 2009, the rapper took to the stage wearing a polka dot outfit and started off with her record ‘Paper Planes.’ Then the beat switched up for ‘Swagga Like Us,’ which samples her vocals throughout the track. Jay Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and T.I., dressed in black and white tuxedos like the modern day Rat Pack, rapping their respective verses on the song. The audience was on its feet to experience some of hip-hop’s best MCs deliver a solid set, which makes this a given on our list of the 10 Best Grammy Performances.
Whitney Houston Tribute (2012)
After the shocking death of Whitney Houston during Grammy weekend in 2012, viewers wondered how the award show would handle honoring the legend in such a short time frame. Jennifer Hudson accepted the hard task of singing a tribute to the late singer with a cover ‘I Will Always Love You.’ Hudson’s voice echoed through the arena and her heartfelt lyrics seemed to touch everyone in the audience. She even held back tears until the end of the performance, which was dedicated to all of those who had passed away that year.